Niese stopped by just for the day; he planned to return to his Ohio home tonight, then come back here next week. It was, however, a meaningful day.

Remember that horrid hamstring injury Niese suffered? That was Aug. 5, nearly six months ago. Today marked the first time, since that injury, that he threw off a mound.

"Probably just 50 percent," Niese said. "Seven or eight pitches. Felt good. No pain. My movement felt good."

He thinks that he'll be ready for the start of the regular season, "as long as nothing stupid happens." That phrase, not surprisingly, generated a string of wise-folk, one-liner responses on Twitter.

Not surprisingly, he said he wasn't concerned about the Mets' winter activity. Niese probably would rank fifth on the Mets' starting pitching depth chart at the moment, unless you put Nelson Figueroa ahead of him. As long as the Mets sign one veteran starting pitcher - which, my goodness, I think they'll do, sooner or later - and all of their veterans are healthy, Niese would start the season at Triple-A Buffalo.

I asked Niese a question that loomed around the time of his injury. Remember how Niese suffered the injury stretching to cover first base, then tried to throw a warm-up pitch in a heap and collapsed in pain? I asked him whether the Mets should have simply removed him from the game as soon as he felt something, rather than have him attempt that pitch.

"It didn’t tear completely when I stretched at first," Niese said. "I got up thinking I wasn’t hurt. I was in no pain at all. I just felt it stretched a little bit, and that was it. I walked it off. It felt great.

"And then, obviously, they wanted me to throw the precautionary pitch. That’s when it tore completely off. The doctor said it was probably 80, 90 percent torn off before I threw that pitch. I tore it completely off after that.

"They said that was the best thing that could have happened. It would’ve happened sooner or later. It was torn. If I wouldn’t have done anything, I would have had that lingering pain. It wouldn’t have healed correctly. So it was probably better that it tore completely off."

But what if the Mets had simply taken him out? Could he have spent 15 days on the disabled list to rest, then come back?

"It probably would’ve been still lingering," Niese said. "But now, that day did it. It fixed it. It should be stronger than it was."



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